WASHINGTON– Carter Kieboom, Mason Denaburg, Luis Garcia, Tim Cate and Will Crowe. All top organizational prospects that the Nationals could move in order to acquire a top flight reliever at the trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon as GM Mike Rizzo will attempt to upgrade an atrocious bullpen to make the Nationals competitive down the stretch.
The Nationals currently sit atop the wildcard standings in a three-way tie for first place with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Entering tonight’s three game series against the Braves the Nationals trail Atlanta by five-and-a-half games making this series an important one if the Nationals want to crawl back into the divisional race instead of playing for a winner-take-all wildcard game.
Let’s be clear for a moment: I want the Nationals to succeed and play in the postseason as much as any Nationals fan would but giving up six years of control of a top organizational prospect for a season-and-a-half of say Shane Greene or Mycheal Givens isn’t the most ideal situation. I know, I know the Nationals need bullpen help more than ever right now but to give up some top organizational prospects for pitching has helped teams make a deep run in October but it hinders them once the farm system is depleted.
The Nationals already have a depleted farm system after having one of the best just six seasons ago. Sitting with the 21st best farm system once the season began, the organization’s depth got even thinner once Victor Robles became an everyday player in the big leagues at the beginning of the season.
After mid-season and off-season trades, the Nationals have depleted their farm system even more such as the trade for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson at the trade deadline in 2017. The bullpen was the obvious weakness leading up to July in 2017 which gave Rizzo a reason to panic. Rizzo pulled the trigger on a deal that sent reliever Blake Trienen, left-hander Jesus Luzardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse to the A’s.
Sure the Nationals acquired two of the best relievers in baseball at the time but they also took a hit in the farm system that was already starting on the downtrend. Luzardo currently ranks as the 19th best prospect in the game while Neuse ranks at the A’s eighth best prospect in their system. Treinen who was struggling at the time of the trade has turned it around since going back to Oakland and has become one of the better relievers in baseball.
Kieboom, the Nationals best prospect, has drawn the Detroit Tigers interest. The Tigers have one of the Nats trade targets on their roster in Shane Greene. Greene has saved 22 of the Tigers 30 wins pitching to a 1.22 ERA. If the Nationals were serious about acquiring Greene, it sounds like they would need to give up Kieboom to actually kill their farm system. If the Nationals were desperate enough to give up Kieboom it would severely decimate their ability to play competitive games in years beyond 2019 if they don’t re-sign Anthony Rendon or Brian Dozier as Luis Garcia is still at least two years away from making his debut.
Not to mention, the wildcard winning team from both leagues has only won the World Series once since its inauguration in 2012. The Giants won the NL wildcard game in 2014 and ended up beating the Royals who won the AL wildcard game that season. Other than those two teams, no other team to win the wildcard game in either league have made it past the league championship series. Out of 14 wildcard games only four teams have gotten past the divisional round.
If the Nationals were to win the wildcard game they would likely have to face the Dodgers who have taken four-of-six against the Nationals this season. Although the Nationals have their “big three” at the top of the rotation, the likelihood of the Nats making a deep run in October if they’re forced to play the Dodgers in the first round? Unlikely.
The Nationals shouldn’t give up some of their top prospects and kill their for a reliever or two just to play in the wildcard game this season.